May 5, 2019

(Below) Op-Ed submitted to Chicago Tribune by South Shore resident Craig Bowen; President of Black College Golf Coaches Association, Diversity and Inclusion Advisor to the Chicago Parks Golf Alliance

After 30+ years advocating for diversity and inclusion in the golf industry as a coach, historian and promoter; April 29th, 2019 will stand among my proudest memories. 125 Chicagoans gathered at Jackson Park Fieldhouse, joined by 5th Ward Alderman Leslie Hairston and Park District Superintendent Mike Kelly, to honor college scholarship recipients Tim Arrington and Abdel Raoul. As reported by the Chicago Tribune’s Teddy Greenstein, highlights included congratulatory letters from Tiger Woods and remarks by Abdel’s mother Tracy Raoul: “There are hundreds of children that can benefit the same way our family has. We need more programs, and we definitely need a great golf course so these children can thrive.”

Astoundingly, within 24 hours, the Chicago Tribune editorial board characterized efforts to improve the Jackson Park and South Shore Golf Courses as “straight into a bunker.” The editorial requested more details, so please consider the following to address its misconceptions of transparency, price and access, economic development and funding.

Transparency:

Designs for the golf course and surrounding park features have been developed through collaboration between Tiger Woods’ TGR Design team, local golfers and community residents. The Chicago Park District recorded 2,300 registered attendees at 13 public meetings. Moreover, the editorial excluded that the Alderman and Park District Superintendent spent the preceding evening with patrons of Jackson Park and South Shore golf courses.

Price and Access:

As a board member for Jackson Park Golf Association, representing over 500 members of African American golf leagues and clubs on the South Side, deliberations have been thorough and passionate. Yet, consensus endures from our October 2017 letter to the Chicago Tribune, “JPGA is confident in the Park District’s pledge to keep rates below $50 for Chicago residents. Providing free golf for juniors will also continue and that proposed pricing is acceptable to our golfers.”

Economic Development:

The golf industry in Illinois has exceeded $2 billion annually, while supporting over 50,000 jobs. Only a paltry dozen of those jobs currently exist at Jackson Park and South Shore. Before devoting resources to hypothetical studies, team members have collaborated with neighborhood business leaders from the South Shore Chamber of Commerce to evaluate and prepare for new opportunities. The Chamber’s assessment: “Tiger Woods and his team have come up with a design that will give community golfers the course they deserve and thrust millions of dollars into the local economy…The influx of revenue from the new golf course will not only strengthen local businesses but stimulate job growth in a community whose unemployment rate is close to 12%.”

Funding:

Preliminary contributions to the 501(c)3 Chicago Parks Golf Alliance fostered the aforementioned achievements. Generosity of families, foundations and corporations provides testament for the philanthropic efforts ahead. Specifically, we must thank Mike and Lindy Keiser. Their participation bears credentials in the golf industry and Chicagoland philanthropy; including campaigns for Millennium Park and the Shirley Ryan Ability Lab.

The editorial also questioned public investment for infrastructure improvements in the South Shore neighborhood. The Chicago Tribune’s Blair Kamin recently complimented projects to improve lakefront connectivity on the South Side, “It can invite shifts in the fate of neighborhoods, in our patterns of movement, and even perhaps in our region’s longstanding divisions of race and class.” Kamin’s article focused on Bronzeville, but the need for safer connectivity persists four miles south at 67th Street.

While commemorating the Park District’s 85th Anniversary at the City Club Luncheon on May 1st, Mike Kelly extolled the virtues of Tim Arrington and Abdel Raoul. Kelly pleaded, “Give us a chance. We’ve got big things coming to Chicago.” More importantly, let’s give our children and neighbors a chance!

Expanded Coverage of Scholarship Celebration for Tim Arrington and Abdel Raoul, plus Op-Ed Here: http://www.africanamericangolfersdigest.com/tiger-woods-salutes-2-south-side-chicago-students-for-golf-and-academic-achievement/h